I had the fortunate opportunity to travel out west to see family over Thanksgiving. Manitoba is a province that is proud of its farmers, having always been supportive of their local growers and producers. The 100-Mile / eating locally / locavore idea has caught on quickly, with many more tasty options available than would at first have been imagined in a province with long winters and shorter growing season than Ontario. In particular, I found there are many more locally grown organic grains available, as well as some exciting urban farm initiatives going on in Winnipeg.
My family has been happily growing, picking, sourcing, and preserving local foods all season and treated us to an amazing harvest feast. Here's what we had...
From my parent's garden: fresh garden tomatoes, and grapes saved from the last grapevine,
From a friend's organic farm and preserved by my mom: homemade crab-apple sauce, pickled cucumbers and beets, apples and lentils for a vegetarian salad, peas and corn,
From a local organic grain farm and baked by my mom: homemade bread (made of local grains - rye, spelt, wheat, flax), with local butter,
From my sister's partners urban farm (an very innovative project called the Landless Farmers Collective): potatoes, herbs, kale, and homemade apple cider from wildcrafted apples,
From another nearby farm: for the carnivores a free-range turkey,
For dessert of course there were homemade local apple and pumpkin pies, with whole wheat crusts, and a taste of maple syrup from urban tapping of 10 downtown maple trees,
and I brought along herbal tea from our garden. Mmmmm...
More on the Landless Farmers Collective - they are a group of 4 people who had been farming with an organic CSA just outside of the city. They decided to do an urban farm (market garden and CSA) this season, and be able to deliver the produce by bicycle, trailer and cargo bicycle. They approached the city about using a large parcel of downtown land, just infront of the Pan Am Centre and near a highschool. They received approval to till up the land, and set up about 1/2 an acre of raised beds in permaculture style. The garden is gorgeous, with curves and spirals, and not many straight-lined rows to be seen. The group received several grants to help with capital costs (trailers, storage bins, tools), including money from the city, province and also Heifer International. Not a small feat, to be planning a huge garden, marketing your sales, working with volunteers and the community, and also applying for grant money! That's another reason why a collective of four people works well, using each of their strengths in different ways to get the various aspects of the project done. The Landless Farmers Collective also values education, and worked with teachers at the highschool to bring the students out of the classroom and into the garden throughout the season. The week I was in Winnipeg, the group had their last session with the students, showing them the final harvest, talking about winter gardening, demonstrating hands-on seed saving, and reiterating the problems in our global food system, the importance of local food security (and what we can do about it locally). A very inspiring project!